Home > Federal, Greens, Liberals, NDP > Will Dion Begin Fulfilling His Promise To The Greens On Electoral Reform, Or Flip-Flop?

Will Dion Begin Fulfilling His Promise To The Greens On Electoral Reform, Or Flip-Flop?

April 30, 2007

An interesting test for Stéphane Dion is coming up on May 2nd, and it shall be interesting to see exactly what he will do.

It seems that one of the promises that Dion made for the Liberal-Green non-compete deal was to explore electoral reform.

Well, there is a vote in the House of Common on Wednesday on a NDP motion by Catherine Bell which does exactly that, explore electoral reform:

That a special committee of the House be created to continue the work on electoral reform as outlined in the 43rd Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs from the 38th Parliament and to make further recommendations on strengthening and modernizing the democratic and electoral systems;

That the membership of the special committee be established by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and the membership report of the special committee be presented to the House within five sitting days after the adoption if this motion;

That substitutions to the membership of the special committee be allowed, if required, in the manner provided by Standing Order 114(2);

That the special committee have all of the powers granted to standing committees by Standing Order 108; that there be a maximum length for speeches by members of the special committee of 10 minutes on any single item;

That the special committee be authorized to hold hearings across Canada;

That the special committee be allowed to look into creating a citizens’ consultation group and issue an interim report to the House on this matter within six weeks of the special committee being struck;

And that the special committee table its final report in the House of Commons no later than March 1, 2008.

So, it seems that Dion really only has two choices here. He could: a) ensure that all Liberals vote in favour of this motion and begin to fulfill his promise; or b) allow a free vote/ensure that Liberals vote against the motion, and have to deal with a lot of angry Greens.

Let’s see if Liberal actions match Liberal words, shall we?

Categories: Federal, Greens, Liberals, NDP
  1. May 1, 2007 at 5:34 am

    I’m curious about one thing. If Dion allows a free vote (your option “B”), how does that ensure that Libs vote against? If Dion, himself, votes against the motion, then I agree that he is failing in his commitment to May. I don’t recall Dion ever committing the entire Liberal Party to anything re Electoral Reform. The May-Dion deal was between those two and applies to two ridings.

    I’m all for reform and I hope Dion is good to his word. I’m also strongly against whipped votes. Ideas must stand on merits – not on threats. ER has plenty of merits. I’d like to see Dion speak out in favour of reform and vote in favour of the motion. If he whips the vote, I’ll lose respect for both the man and for the vote results.

    Electoral reform is all about bettering our democracy. Whipped votes stifle democracy. Calling for a whipped vote to better democracy seems like warring for peace — oxymoronic.


  2. Northern BC Dipper
    May 1, 2007 at 7:13 am

    Well, the thing is, JimBobby, that sometimes, due to the nature of our Parliament, political parties sometimes have to whip the vote to preserve certain principles. That’s why many people vote on the basis of a political party.

    Dion has promised the Greens an investigation into electoral reform. This motion does that. Even one Liberal vote agianst this motion would show that the Greens were dealing in bad faith. Or dealing with a leader that can’t control his party.

  3. May 1, 2007 at 10:49 am

    “Even one Liberal vote agianst this motion would show that the Greens were dealing in bad faith.”

    I think you meant to say that this would mean that the Liberals – not the Greens – were dealing in bad faith.

    BTW, prior to teh 2004 election, Jack Layton was asked what it would take to get him to prop up a Liberal minority, should one be elected.

    Layton said that there was only one non-negotiable issue: electoral reform would need to be looked at if he was to back up Martin. Non-negotiable, no other issue named.

    Well, Layton got my vote based on that non-negotiable. Then, the Grits got a minority. Then, I waited for Layton to have the opportunity to use the balance of powr to deliver what he said was the one and only non-negotiable.

    Sure enough, Martin’s Liberals were about to fall unless they got the NDP to support their budget. I was on the edge of my seat waiting for Layton to keep the promise that got my vote.

    Guess what. No mention was ever made about ER. Layton did negotiate with martin and got $5.5 billion worth of concessions but, dang-it-all, the one non-negotiable issue never came up.

    Good faith?

    I will never vote for the NDP again as long as it is led by the liar who got my vote on the basis of a non-negotiable promise and then broke that promise without a second thought. I still feel the NDP vote was stolen from me. I would have voted Green buit Layton’s commitment to ER bought my strategic vote.

    So, if you’re going to point fingers at Dion, remember what Jack promised and what he delivered when he had the chance.


  4. Northern BC Dipper
    May 1, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    Well, JimBobby, sounds like you are making a lot of assumptions there. You (and I) don’t really don’t what Layton had to deal with when he talked to Martin.

    But honestly, I’d take the progress made by the Liberal-NDP budget on bread-and-butter issues such as affordable housing, education, environment, foreign aid, wage protection in regards to bankruptcies, and fair corporate taxation over a luxury caviar issues such as electoral reform any day.

    The fact is, todays Liberals are not going to make any progress on the bread and butter issues, and let me tell you, the NDP has certainly done more for electoral reform than the Liberals ever will. This is an NDP motion after all.

    So yeah, Jack is delivering on electoral reform. He might be a little late doing so. Now the onus is on the Liberals. Will they help pass the motion, or ensure that nothing gets done?

    With flipper-flopper Dion, I have a feeling that the Liberals will fail the cause of electoral reform once again.

  5. May 1, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    We know that if Layton had discussed ER with martin, the NDP would tell us about it. They would want to let us know that layton at least tried to keep his promise. There was nothing in the reports of those budget talks that suggested any discussion of ER. Believe me, I looked.

    Maybe you think the budget concessions were better than ER but the fact is trhat Layton promised to hold the Liberals feet to the fire on ER – not on those other issues. I voted for the NDP in 2004 mainly because of Layton’s promise on ER. When he said it was the one and only non-negotiable, I believed he would use his power to push for it. He didn’t.

    His promise was to force the Martin minority Liberals to study ER – not the Harper Cons. He did not keep that promise. No amount of “he’s keeping it now” will convince me that when Layton had Martin on the ropes, he couldn’t have kept his promise.

    Do you not think you’re holding Dion to a higher standard than you’re holding Layton. Dion, afterr all, only made a promise to Elizabeth May. Layton made a promise to Canadians and some of us voted for him based on trhat promise.


  6. Northern BC Dipper
    May 1, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    Actually, now that I think about it more, it comes to mind that one really can’t put ER into a discussion on the budget, really. I mean, if you are talking about which monies go where, then ER really has no place in a budget deal.

    So yeah, Layton is getting it done, despite all of all flimsy assertions to the contrary. Will Dion? His party doesn’t even like ER.

  7. May 1, 2007 at 1:11 pm

    Keep thinking. Nearly all government initiatives are launched via the budget. A comprehensive stiudy of our electoral system, contrasting and compariing our system to other jurisdictions around the world, is something that costs money. That money would be earmarked in a budget.

    And, I agree with you that the Libs don’t want PR. Why would they? They are one of the biggest recipients of undeserved seats thanks to disPR.

    Unless a government is poised to fall, like Martin was in 2005, the big parties have nothing to gain and everything to lose by adopting reform. They will only move on ER if they are forced to do so. May used what little leverage she had to get Dion to agree to something fairly non-specific.

  8. Northern BC Dipper
    May 1, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    May used what little leverage she had to get Dion to agree to something fairly non-specific.

    So the question would be, for the present and very near future, will Dion follow through by voting for a motion that basically achieves what he promised to the Greens? I’d still say this is the first real test of the Liberal-Green deal, and it will be interesting to see what happens.

  9. May 1, 2007 at 2:09 pm

    “I’d still say this is the first real test of the Liberal-Green deal, and it will be interesting to see what happens.”


  10. May 1, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    We know that if Layton had discussed ER with martin, the NDP would tell us about it. They would want to let us know that layton at least tried to keep his promise.

    Actually, Layton did do that, and he did tell people about it. He mentioned it in several interviews that made it to mainstream newspapers, and I talked about them a bunch of times in my blog. He brought electoral reform up to Paul Martin first thing, and Martin’s reaction was “you’re two votes short.” I’m not sure where you get “liar” out of that–if you’re going to be angry at anyone, it should be Martin.

  11. May 2, 2007 at 4:26 am

    The article refers to an incident that happened prior to the budget negotiations.
    “Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin brushed Layton off earlier this year, after an initial promise to pursue electoral reform, the NDP leader recalled with some frustration and a hint of anger.

    “He said, ‘You’re two votes short,’ ” to make any demands, said Layton.

    “And that was the story of this Parliament. Arrogance. ‘You’re two votes short, you haven’t got enough power to keep me in power, so to heck with you.’ ”

    Layton clearly enjoyed the turnabout that came a few months later, when Martin needed every NDP vote as well as the support of Independent MPs in the Commons to pass the Liberal budget and keep his minority government alive through the summer and into fall.”
    At the time Martin made that statement, the NDP was not in the same position as when Layton dealt with Martin on the budget. It was months later, according to the article, when Martin did need the NDP votes, the issue didn’t get pushed.

    The question that Layton was asked concerned what he would do to prop up a Liberal minority. When Martin brushed him off, he wasn’t in need of propping up. Later, he was.

    The timeline:
    Layton says he’ll force PR on to the table when and if he has the chance to prop up a Liberal minority.
    Layton brings issue to Martin and is brushed off.
    Martin needs Layton. Layton gets $4.6 Bn in concessions but there is no mention of PR in the budget negotiations.

    To me, it still looks like Layton didn’t bring this up when he was in a position to prop up the Liberals but prior to that time.

    I still think he could have used his leverage when it counted.

    And I definitely think the OP holds Dion to a higher standard than Layton.

    And I still think that whipped votes have absolutely no place in a representative democracy.

    As far as sitting parties go, the NDP has been consistent and talked the talk on PR. I respect that. I respect Ed Broadbent for bringing up the issue in the Liberal minority parliament 2004-5.

    I also understand that PR is a somewhat arcane idea for the genpop and that when Layton negotiated with Martin over the budget, $4.6 Bn is something the average voter can get his or her head around.

    Of course, I am angry at Martin but, as I said and as everyone knows, PR will cost the LPC, CPC and BQ seats. There is no incentive for Martin or any major party to implement PR. There’s a big disincentive. It will only come about when proponents have the government in a strangle hold.


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